PEI

Advertising rules not broken as signs of spring election start popping up

Big wooden billboards with nothing on them yet have been put up on many street corners. Some candidates are knocking on doors and handing out literature. Even though campaigning is not permitted until the writ is dropped, this pre-election activity is legal, according to Elections P.E.I.

Elections P.E.I. says pre-election activity is legal, within limits

Blank billboards are turning up at many busy intersections and highways across the province. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Signs of a spring election are popping up, literally, around the province.

Big wooden billboards with nothing on them yet have been put up on many street corners and along busy highways.

Some candidates are knocking on doors and handing out literature.

Even though campaigning is not permitted until the writ is dropped, this pre-election activity is legal, according to Elections P.E.I.

"There's nothing in the Election Act or Election Expenses Act that says this is not allowed," said Tim Garrity, chief electoral officer.

But that doesn't mean it's a free-for-all. The cost of erecting those blank billboards will indeed count toward a candidate's advertising expense limits, according to Garrity. Same goes for those brochures turning up on doorsteps.

"Things like that can be considered election expenses even if the cost takes place just outside [the writ period]," said Garrity. "They do still become election expenses if they are used during the writ period for the election."

Tim Garrity is P.E.I.'s chief electoral officer. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

The wording of brochures is an area of special concern to Elections P.E.I. Until the election is called candidates' written materials can't outright ask for votes.

"Basically what we look for some real red flags is the 'vote for, support me, elect me' that type of wording," said Garrity. "So it's a challenge to go through with the legislation to make sure it's being interpreted correctly."

The legislation that governs Island elections is intended to balance an individual's right to free speech with the need for fairness, Garrity said.

Candidates can be fined 

"Politics really is a name game and a face game," said Garrity. "We don't want to infringe on anybody's rights of free speech and being able to go out and introduce themselves."

Elections P.E.I. has met with political parties and independent candidates to go over what is, and what is not allowed, Garrity said.

Candidates face fines of up to $1,000 for infractions. Elections P.E.I. would turn over any evidence of alleged infractions to local city police or RCMP for further investigation, Garrity said.

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